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Green Purse Alerts!

Why My Purse is Green

Because I believe…

  • the fastest, most effective way to stop polluters is by pressuring them in the marketplace
  • women can be the world’s most powerful economic and environmental force if we intentionally shift our spending to the best green products and services
  • women have the power right now to solve many of our most serious environmental problems by using our green purses to make a difference
  • women must act – intentionally, collectively, and with the full force of our purse power behind us – if we hope to leave our children and grandchildren a better world.
  • Ecocentric Mom Box Review

    Ecocentric mom (1) My Ecocentric Mom Box is always full of an interesting and surprising array of product options I never knew existed. Here's what I discovered in the March/April box:

    For your body:

    Bach Original Flower Remedies - Bach has distilled 38 flower and plant essences into concentrated clear liquids, each of which is reputed to help deal with some kind of stress. My box contained a bottle of the essence of elm. It smells good enough to use as a perfume, though the recommended application is on the tongue.

    Treefort Naturals Comfrey Salve - My hands always seem to be on the dry side. This salve soothes and softens and leaves no greasy residue.

    MarieNatie All-Natural Lip Gloss - It's free of parabens, sulfates, synthetic fragrances and dyes, petro-chemicals and phthalates. I also like how moist it is on the lips. The company also makes eyeliner, eye shadow, blush, lip balm and mascara.

    Oatmeal Grapefruit Face Wash Powder by Homespun Northwest - This powder consists of freshly ground organic oats, Kaolin clay and grapefruit essential oil. Put a little in your hand, add a few drops of water until it makes a paste, and scrub. Easy peasy, and safe as can be.

    House Blend Organics Coconut Body Wash - I already use coconut butter as a body lotion because it is so moisturizing. This body wash both cleans and moisturizes, too.

    Essio $10 Gift Card - Essio is an aromatherapy diffuser for the shower and uses 100% USDA-certified organic essential oils. Wouldn't a lovely essential oil be so much better to smell than chlorine when you take a shower?

    To help you relax:

    Organic Caffeine-Free Roman Provence Rooibos Tea - This tea is full of rooibos, elderberries, blueberries, rosehip pieces, lavender blossoms, and even rose petals. It is just as soothing to smell as to sip.

    Powernap 2-CD Set - The lovely ambient music on these CDs will help revive you in the middle of the day with a powernap that works with your schedule. Choose from three longer naps to two five-inute programs. Each nap ends with chimes and a gentle voice to away you from a refreshing sleep.

    2 Degrees Food Bar - Unlike many power bars or energy bars, this snack actually tasted like real food. It includes heritage grains like quinoa, cia and millet. Plus, they're gluten-free, vegan, GO-free and kosher. An added bonus: For every 2 Degrees bar sold, the company donates a meal to a hungry child in the US and abroad.

    PLUS:

    Bluapple for Produce Preservation - I've been wanting to try one of these for a while, so I'm glad to have a chance. It is a small plastic ball that resembles an apple. Inside, you add small pellets that absorb the ethylene gas that fruits and vegetables emit as they age. By absorbing the gas rather than leaving it in the fridge, the Bluapple aims to preserve food freshness and extend the life of the produce. I've just put it in my veggie drawer. I'll let you know how it works.

    Sport Suds Laundry Detergent - This detergent is specially formulated to remove stubborn stains and odors. I'm not sure exactly what is in it, but happily it doesn't contain phosphates, dyes, or synthetic fragrances. It could be very effective on t-shirts, socks, shorts and sweatpants that take a beating when you or your kids are playing sports, out biking or hiking, or otherwise working up a sweat.

    Acai Seed Bead Hair Barrett - All of the jewelry made by Terri Jean's adornments, including this barrett, are vegan, with a particular emphasis on organic nuts and seed beads.

    Get Your Own EcoCentric Mom Box - It's easy to sign up to get your own box. You'll find all the details here.

    Note: Big Green Purse earns a small commission on any boxes ordered through our site. Those fees help make it possible for us to provide you with expert content at no charge. Our editorial opinion of the products remains our own. Thanks.

     

    The Nest Thermostat Can Help Build Your Nest Egg by Saving You Energy & Money

    We've long been advocates of programmable thermostats to save you energy and money. But have you heard about the Nest Thermostat? It's called the "learning thermostat" because it actually learns from your own behavior in your home to help you spend less and use less energy. I asked my colleague, general contractor David Glenn, to explain.

    NestWhat is the Nest Thermostat?

    Thermostats are devices that turn the heat up or down, or the air conditioning up or down, depending on the indoor temperature you want for your home. Usually, you can just turn your thermostat on and adjust the temperature to whatever feels comfortable. What makes the Nest thermostat different is that it is fully capable of programming itself. Here's how:

    As you adjust the temperature in your home throughout the day, Nest takes notice. In fact, it keeps a record of the times that you prefer more heat and the times you prefer less, eventually building a schedule for you. Within a few days, you won’t have to interact with Nest in order for it to change the temperature to your personal preferences throughout the day. So it becomes a very automatic way for your home to be heated or cooled to your exact preferences without you having to continually set and re-set the thermostat yourself.

    Once the schedule is set, you can still make quick, one-time alterations without disrupting the overall program. However, should you continue to make regular changes, the thermostat will adapt and create a new schedule to fit your new needs.

    Nest’s Auto-Away Setting

    Nest is just as useful when you're not home as when you are, maybe better, because you won’t have to worry about paying for unnecessary climate control while you’re away. The “Auto-Away” feature can do the following:

    ·       Uses sensors and algorithms to sense if you’re away from home

    ·       Reduces heat or AC use when it senses occupants aren’t home

    ·       Tracks and memorizes any times you may consistently be away from home

    How the Nest Thermostat Saves Money and Energy

    The end result of all of this innovation isn’t just increased thermostat autonomy. Nest designed its learning thermostat so that homeowners could waste less energy when they heat and cool their homes.

    The end result is that users can save as much as 20% on their monthly heating and cooling bills according to Nest. And, as they say, what’s good for the goose (your wallet) is good for the gander (the environment). Considering that 44% of the energy in the United States comes from coal-burning power plants - the single largest air polluters in the country - anything we can do to  reduce energy consumption can only help keep the planet healthy.

    The Nest Leaf

    Nest takes it one step further by including a feature called “Nest Leaf.” This feature does the following:

    ·       * Acts as a guide to help you save energy

    ·      *  When you decrease energy use, a small icon appears to let you know you’re saving more energy

    ·       * Encourages you to make any changes that might save extra energy

            Installing the Nest    

           There are videos available on YouTube that make installing the Nest yourself look easy. If you're pretty handy, go ahead and do it yourself. I'm not that comfortable when it comes to wiring, so I'd probably get the help of one of my DIY friends or neighbors who is. Otherwise, you can buy the Nest at most hardware stores, big box stores, and online.

           Here's more information on the Nest.

    NOTE: While the learning thermostat has certainly been making waves, Nest’s other attempt at innovative home automation recently hit a snag. The Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector was pulled from the market due a design flaw that could possibly allow users to accidentally deactivate the alarm function, which in turn could lead to property damage, personal injury, or even death. Still, despite this apparent hiccup, Nest remains committed towards revolutionizing environmentally friendly home automation.

     

      David Glenn Profile David Glenn taps his 30 years of experience owning his own home-building business to review promising new technologies that offer consumers the opportunity to save energy and money and live greener lives. Connect with him on Twitter @davidglenn97.

    Follow the LEED: Breaking Down the Pros and Cons of a LEED Certified Home

    LEED 2You've probably heard about something called a LEED Certified Home, but do you actually know what it is? LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a program sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council. It encourages construction of buildings and, increasingly homes, that use energy as efficiently as possible and meet other environmental standards as well.

    Why should you as a homeowner care? I asked my colleague and general contractor David Glenn to explain in this guest post.

    "As a general contractor, I’ve spent years in the construction of commercial and residential buildings. You name it, and I’ve built it (or at least something like it), and I can tell you this: most structures—from the materials, to the overall design, to the location itself—just aren’t all that “green.”

    Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. And with the help of LEED, increasingly, it's not.

    What is LEED?

    LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It's actually a rating system created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) that offers a standard against which green design can be measured. It does this by assigning a rating to any building reviewed.

    The LEED rating is based upon factors such as:

    * the sustainability of the construction site

    * the renewability of construction materials

    * water efficiency

    * waste production, and

    * indoor environmental concerns, like air quality and the availability of natural light.

    LEED 1 When all of the pertinent data have been compiled and considered, LEED assigns the building in question points in the different categories. Buildings receive a rating based on their overall score.  Those that rate spectacularly well in every category and earn a total of 80 points or more receive a platinum certificate. 60–79 points earn a gold certificate, 50–59 a silver certificate, and 40–49 total points a basic certification. Anything below 40 gets no certification at all.

    Benefits of LEED

    Most LEED homes come with built-in home automation technology that allows homeowners to save energy, water, and money by learning a homeowner’s habits and adjusting to those. Companies like Nest and others have led the way with groundbreaking home automation technology like programmable "learning" thermostats that can save us consumers money on our energy bills.

    Builders and designers who adhere to sustainable practices and receive a high level of LEED certification benefit, too. Not only do they improve their own public image by demonstrating their commitment to the environment, but they're also able to reap certain monetary rewards. Especially for those building large buildings or office or residential complexes, LEED certification can increase property values and decrease energy, water, and waste costs. Additionally, certain government programs offer rewards for buildings that are LEED certified. Overall, LEED is creating a climate in which eco-friendly design and green materials are gaining an advantage. 

    Additional Value if You Own a Leed Certified Home

    Given enough time, LEED should be terrific both for the world you live in and your pocketbook. In addition to saving energy, LEED certification of privately owned homes has been known to increase residential property values. Of course, the effect that it has on the value will vary from area to area, but even in locations where the demand for green housing isn’t particularly high, potential buyers will still be impressed by reduced utility costs associated with LEED construction practices.

    Finding and Financing a LEED Certified Home

    If you're in the market, how can you find a LEED certified home? Your real estate agent or certain online sites such as Listedgreen.com might help you locate potential properties. Still, because they're relatively new, existing LEED certified homes may be a bit hard to come by.

    The good news is that building your own LEED certified home isn’t nearly as expensive as you might assume. For an additional 1 to 7% of construction costs, you’ll be able to create a platinum certified house from the ground up. Of course, you also have the option of renovating your existing home to make it more LEED compliant. This may be a bit more difficult for certain homeowners, given that some factors may not be alterable (location comes to mind), but there are nonetheless many ways you can upgrade your home if you're willing to undertake a renovation. 

    As a general contractor I’ve seen all sorts of buildings go up, but it’s only been during the last few years that people have really begun to take notice of the environmental and economic benefits these structures offer. The LEED certification program is a good way to judge just how “green” a building is. If you’re willing to invest a bit of extra time and money in the short term, you can get that same reassurance for your own property, and reap the benefits for many years to come."

    David Glenn Profile David Glenn taps his 30 years of experience owning his own home-building business to review promising new technologies that offer consumers the opportunity to save energy and money and live greener lives. Connect with him on Twitter @davidglenn97.
     
    Get more information on LEED from the U.S. Green Building Council.

     

     

     

     

     

    Don't Replace Trans Fats with Conflict Palm Oil. Neither are Healthy For Your Family.

    When you read the label on the processed foods you buy at the supermarket, what do you look for? I've mostly been on the hunt for information about calories, sugar and fat content, transfats, and synthetic chemicals like food dyes and preservatives.

    Rainforest Action Network (RAN), along with Dr. Andrew Weil, an expert in integrative medicine, says we should look at what they call "Conflict Palm Oil" as well. RAN's Ashley Schaeffer Yidliz tells us why in this guest post sponsored by RAN.

    Palm oilConflict Palm Oil is often used to replace artery-clogging trans fats. It makes a convenient substitute because palm oil, like partially hydrogenated oil, is solid at room temperature. But is it actually healthy?

    According to Dr. Weil, "Fresh palm fruit oil, sometimes called ‘red palm oil,’ is a nutritious and beneficial oil. However, it’s important not to confuse this raw oil with palm kernel oil, or the highly processed versions of crude palm oil that are commonly used as ingredients in the industrially produced packaged foods found in most Americans’ diets. These types of palm oil are unhealthy for the human body. And their irresponsible cultivation in tropical areas is unhealthy for the planet.”

     Dr. Weil joins a chorus of voices expressing concern that, when it comes to replacing trans fats, we may be jumping out of the frying pan and into the deep fryer. The World Health Organization, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and the USDA's Agricultural Research Service all recommend against consuming palm oil and other tropical oils because their saturated fat content is so high.

    Beyond the health issue, environmentalists and human rights activists are concerned that the FDA ban on trans fats will lead to a repeat of the mistakes companies made ten years ago when the FDA mandated trans fat labeling. That mandate led to a 500% increase in demand for Conflict Palm Oil, which is produced in ways that cause large scale rainforest destruction and human rights abuses.

    In fact, palm oil can now be found in roughly half the packaged food products sold in grocery stores. It is added to teething biscuits, baby formula, granola bars, peanut butter, crackers, and more. When we feed our kids food that comes out of a bag, a box, or a package of any kind, chances are they're eating palm oil.

    Orangutan As a mom, I'm pleased to see the FDA taking steps to eliminate an ingredient from our food supply that is unhealthy for my family. But as a Palm Oil Campaigner for Rainforest Action Network, I know that replacing trans fats with Conflict Palm Oil won't do much for people's health and will cause dire consequences for the planet. In fact, not one of the nation's top 20 snack food manufacturers can verifiably ensure that their products do not contain Conflict Palm Oil. I know that my baby boy would never forgive me if I told him that the hidden ingredient in his teething biscuits was the reason he'd never be able to see an orangutan in the wild.

    That's why I'm so passionate about our Conflict Palm Oil campaign to pressure the Snack Food 20* group of companies to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from their products. And I'm pleased to report that it is working. A few months ago, palm oil mega-giant Wilmar International - which controls 45% of the global trade in palm oil - adopted a conflict-free palm oil policy. On Valentine's Day, Kellogg released a strengthened palm oil purchasing commitment, joining industry peers Nestle, Unilever and Ferrero. But we're still waiting for several other kids' snack makers to step up to the plate, including Kraft, PepsiCo, Heinz, Campbell Soup, ConAgra Food and Cargill.

    What can moms do to make a difference?

    1) Keep reading labels. Palm Oil goes by many names, including Palm Kernel Oil, Palmitate and Glyceryl Stearate. You'll be amazed how ubiquitous it is, once you learn to recognize its many names.

    2) Read RAN's Conflict Palm Oil report, which outlines the health, human and environmental impacts of this destructive product and lays out exactly what we are asking shoppers and companies to do to eliminate it.

    3) Take action online to tell the Snack Food 20: Don't replace trans fats with Conflict Palm Oil.

    Thanks to the support of RAN activists and allies, we are making progress and gaining traction. But we'll need to keep pushing to reach the tipping point. I am convinced that moms have the power to provide the added momentum we'll need to remove Conflict Palm Oil from our food supply.

     

    *  "Snack Food 20" group of companies are Campbell Soup Company; ConAgra Foods, Inc.; Dunkin' Brands Group, Inc.; General Mills, Inc.; Grupo Bimbo; Hillshire Brands Company; H.J. Heinz Company; Hormel Foods Corporation; Kellogg Company; Kraft Food Group, Inc.; Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Corp.; Mars Inc.; Mondelez International, Inc.; Nestle. S.A.; Nissin Foods Holdings Co., Ltd.; PepsiCo, Inc.; The Hershey Company; The J.M. Smucker Company; Toyo Suisan Kaisha, Ltd.; and Unilever.

    NOTE: Thanks to RAN for sponsoring this post. Sponsors allow us to provide expert content at no cost to you. Our editorial opinions remain our own.

    What Can We Learn from UK Businesses, which Waste £7 MILLION Each Day on Energy?

    With energy costs continuing to rise, wherever you are in the world, individuals and businesses alike are struggling to save money.  Our disposable income is having to stretch much further; most of us have to make the most of what we have.  Many of us at home have been hit particularly hard, the victims of pay freezes and job losses as businesses and organizations attempt to reduce their overheads and keep their companies afloat. 

    Greenpurse Nevertheless, businesses are still wasting enormous sums of capital on energy.  In the U.S., it is estimated that just 14% of the energy we pay for gets used efficiently.  According to researchers working for the UK Government, businesses there are collectively wasting up to £7 million/$12 million USD each day on energy! [1] If we’re going to make progress in reducing carbon emissions and engineer a shift to cleaner, greener ways of sourcing power, it is clear that we need to look to energy efficiency first, with businesses leading the way.  Here’s how, courtesy of Secured Energy Bonds plc, the sponsors of this post.

    Employees are Key to Saving Energy

      In the United Kingdom, the Carbon Trust - a leading global non-profit organisation dedicated to helping governments, businesses and the public sector speed up the transition towards a sustainable, low carbon economy - is calling for business managers to take control of bottom line waste.  How?  Tap their employees.  Research indicates that less than 25% of workers in the UK have been tasked with helping to save energy in the workplace and fewer than half are concerned about their employer’s energy spending.

     As a result, workplaces are missing out on annual savings of more than £300 million (almost $500 million USD) – savings which could be achieved simply by encouraging workers to adopt the type of behaviors that will lead to less energy consumption and greater efficiency.  Here are some typical savings:

    ·       Reduce business air travel by 5%: £128m/$213m & 1.5m tonnes CO2

    ·       Reduce lighting by 10%: £55m/$92m & 164,000 tonnes CO2

    ·       Reduce waste sent to landfill by 5%: £49m/$82m & 115,000 tonnes CO2

    ·       Reduce small power use (e.g. kettles, photocopiers, monitors) by 10%: £39m/$65m & 190,000 tonnes CO2

    ·       Reduce temperature by 1°C: £35m/$58m & 194,000 tonnes CO2

     A survey of employees by the Carbon Trust has revealed that 60% of workers would be more likely to save energy at work if they were financially rewarded, and 58% would be more likely to do so if their actions were recognised. [2]

    Skeptical woman Surprisingly, only 22% of employees know what measures they could take to save energy, and a mere 16% are confident that they have the authority to do so.  Clearly, businesses need to embark on an employee engagement programme that explains what employees need to do, encourages them to look for opportunities to save energy, and rewards them for doing so.

     Any company that undertakes such a program will be richly rewarded in cost savings and increased employee engagement.  Furthermore, employees will feel good knowing they’re doing their part to help meet important goals in reducing the emission of carbon dioxide, a primary cause of climate change and global warming.  Britain is trying to reach its target of a 26% - 32% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020.  Greater efficiency through employee engagement is key to achieving this goal.

     Transition to Renewable Energy like Solar and Wind

     So, too, is transitioning to renewable energy sources.  The UK's Climate Change Act calls for 15% of the nation's energy to be derived from solar, wind power and other renewables by 2020.  Business and industry have a vital role to play in bringing about these reductions.  For example, Secured Energy Bonds plc recently announced a nationwide programme of rooftop solar projects in 22 English schools; the multi-site development will help reduce carbon emissions by around 560 metrics tonnes and will save the schools £1.4m/$1.7m in electricity bills.

     In most countries, meeting domestic needs accounts for less than half of all energy consumed.  That’s true in the UK too, where domestic energy consumption accounts for only 34% of energy used.  Business and industry consume the lion’s share at 43% while commercial and public premises account for another 18%.  Clearly, however much we adopt clean, green energy in our homes, targets to reduce carbon emissions and use energy more wisely are unlikely to be met unless the commercial and industrial sector joins in.

    [1] http://www.theguardian.com/business/2008/jul/22/greenbusiness.energy?gusrc=rss&feed=environment

    [2] http://www.carbontrust.com/about-us/press/2013/12/bosses-miss-out-on-300-million-energy-and-waste-reduction-opportunity

     NOTE: This post was sponsored by www.energybonds.co.uk/, a subsidiary of CBD Energy Limited.  Sponsorships enable us to provide expert content at no cost to you.  Our opinions remain our own.  Thank you.

     

     

     

    LED Lights Brighten Rooms, Save Time & Money

    If you have a computer, cell phone, printer, even a television set, you are already using LEDs, even if you didn’t know it. Now you can take advantage of this great money-saving green technology for the light bulbs you use around your home.Here’s how, courtesy of the Sunlite lighting company.

    What is an LED?

    Sunlite LED LED stands for “light emitting diodes,” semiconductor devices that produce visible light when an electrical current is passed through them. This technology makes them far superior to incandescent bulbs, which waste a huge amount of energy generating light by using electricity to heat a metal filament untit il becomes “white” hot.  Until LEDs started moving into the market, compact fluorescents were the most energy-efficient option for consumers. CFLs are still a good choice, because they’re 75% more efficient than incandescents. But LEDs are better yet, because they’re even more efficient than CFLs, durable, versatile and so longlasting. Read on to learn more about these benefits.

    LED Benefits

    I have many LEDs in my home. Here’s what I like about them.

    Durability: LEDs last a really long time. One LED can last anywhere from 5 to 10 years, with some bulbs lasting as long as 100,000 hours – 11 years of continuous operation, or 22 years of 50% operation.  That means I don’t have to spend a lot of time changing bulbs. This is especially useful for hard-to-reach locations, like ceiling fixtures, wall sconces, and porch lights. Even if an incandescent lasts 1,000 hours, the LED lasts 100 times longer!

    Save money: LEDs help reduce my electricity bill. Though an LED is more expensive to purchase, in the long run, it is much cheaper to operate. A quick review of prices at my local hardware store showed LEDs on sale for as little as $5.97 a bulb. The cheapest incandescents cost around a dollar a bulb. Let’s do the math: For an extra $5, you get a bulb that lasts 100 times as long! That’s almost $100 saved in light bulb costs, let alone the money you’ll save on your electricity bill. Imagine if you replace 10 incandescents in your home with 10 LEDs. You’ll save $1,000 just in light bulb purchases. That’s pretty hard to beat.

     Bonus: Many utility companies now offer their customers discounts when they purchase LEDs. Sunlite, the sponsors of the post, is giving away $1,000 of free LED products to one consumer who enters their Facebook contest here.  Anyone can enter!

     LEDs are cool. Yes, they’re “cool,” if you mean hip. But more importantly, they’re cool to operate. Unlike incandescent or halogen light bulbs, LEDs don’t radiate heat. This is especially important in the summer, when air conditioning sends electricity costs through the roof.

     No mercury. Compact fluorescents contain a very small amount of mercury. While usually not dangerous at home, CFLs add this toxic chemical to our landfills when they’re thrown away. LEDs are safe to use, and safe to dispose of.

     ENERGY STAR certified. The best LEDs available are also those that meet the high standards for performance and quality set by the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program. You know from reading this blog that I’m a big fan of ENERGY STAR products because they are well-made, deliver reliable service, and help me save energy and money. ENERGY STAR LEDs meet more than 20 separate industry standards and procedures and have been tested by independent third-parties to meet their claims.

     Nice light. LEDs come in a variety of brightness and color options. Choose soft white/warm for kitchens, dining and living rooms, bright white for bathrooms, hallways and offices, and daylight for security, garages, and laundry and utility rooms.

     Versatility.  LED bulbs can be used in pretty much any lighting fixture you have. Living room table and floor lamps, kitchen and bathroom ceiling lights, recessed fixtures, porch lights, desk lights. Once you decide to go LED, you shouldn’t have a problem finding the right bulb to fit your need.

    In the average U.S. home, lighting accounts for about 20% of the electric bill. Why not cut that down significantly by installing LEDs? You’ll start saving money immediately. And won’t it be great not to have the hassle of changing bulbs so often?

    NOTE: Thanks to the Sunlite lighting company for sponsoring this post. Sponsors enable us to bring you expert content at no cost to you. Our editorial opinions remain our own.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    UK Green Deal Programs to Help Homeowners Pay for Insulation, Save Money

    Insulating your home is probably the most important step you can take to use less energy and save money on heating and cooling bills.  The United Kingdom has created a series of financing programs to help homeowners pay insulation costs that create a great model other communities and countries could follow. Even though there are still some kinks in the system, they’re worth examining. Here’s how two of them work, courtesy of Well Warm, a company that provides home insulation services.

    Insulation Why Insulate?

     To do its part to stop climate change, the UK has set specific goals to reduce its carbon footprint, which is the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere when fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas are burned. The government is focusing on buildings because so many homes, apartment buildings, offices, and other structures are poorly insulated and have inefficient heating systems.  In fact, in an average home, morethan 40% of the heating energy escapes through the roof and walls. The idea is that helping to finance insulation will make homes and workplaces more comfortable and cheaper to heat, while reducing carbon emissions nationwide.

    What are the programs?

     There are two government initiatives: ECO, and Green Deal. Both are focused on providing financing, ECO as grants and Green Deal as loans, to help homeowners and building managers pay for energy-saving measures like insulation, improvements to heating systems, draft-proofing, double glazing windows, solar panels or heat pumps, or some combination thereof.

     How does Green Deal work?

     A homeowner or building manager uses either an online tool or a certified Green Deal assessor (like Well Warm) to determine what energy-saving improvements would be most beneficial.  (Some assessors charge a fee; others do it for free.)

    After the assessment, the homeowner receives a Green Deal advice report that contains an Energy Performance certificate that rates the home for energy efficiency. It recommends specific improvements and also details the amount of money that could be saved on annual energy bills if the recommended steps are taken. Based on the report, the homeowner can get a quote for the cost of the insulation and other actions.  The Green Deal program then provides financing so the homeowner can borrow the money needed to pay for the insulation.

    The loan plus whatever interest rate is set at the time is repaid through a charge added to the electricity bill. The payment for the insulation is meant to match the savings that will be made from former energy bills, so is intended to upgrade homes at no added cost to the customer. If the homeowner sells the home, the loan transfers with the property so it continues to be repaid through the utility bill.  This  interactive graphic produced by TheGuardian.com lets you click on different energy efficiency measures to get a sense of what the average savings by month/year could be by installing such measures. 

     How does ECO work

     ECO stands for Energy Company Obligation. This program is specifically designed to help homeowners on public assistance still be able to afford retrofits that will save them money by using less energy. It is not a loan program like Green Deal and does not need to be paid back. Funding is available for a range of energy saving measures, including heating and hot water systems and different types of insulation and glazing.

     Do programs like Green Deal and ECO make a difference?

     Anytime a building is insulated, that’s good! However, the Green Deal program in particular has a few kinks to work out before it reaches its potential. Many householders are reluctant to pay for the initial assessment if they can’t find a free assessor. The interest rate on the loan can be so high that it loses its appeal.  Plus, many people still don’t understand the importance of reducing home energy demand or how they can take advantage of the program.  Hopefully, Green Deal program mangers will figure out a more reasonable financing package and explain the program’s costs and benefits, as energy prices will only increase and the pollution impact of burning fossil fuels is never going to change.

     Note:  Thanks again to Well Warm  for sponsoring this post. Sponsorships allow us to provide valuable information at no cost to you. Our editorial opinions remain our own.

     

     

    The Pros and Cons of an Electric Car

    Are you thinking of buying an electric car? You’re not alone. Thousands of consumers are motivated to save money on fuel and do their part to stop climate change and clean up the air by burning less gasoline. But what do you need to consider before you actually take the plunge? Here are the pros and cons, courtesy of Citroen Retail Group, our sponsors for this post.

    PROS – NO GASOLINE

    Cz1citroen In my book, the biggest advantage an electric car offers is about what it doesn’t use – gasoline.  Burning gasoline creates carbon dioxide, one of the biggest contributors to climate change. Gas exhaust is also full of the tiny particulates that cause smog and air pollution, which means it’s directly related to asthma and even heart attacks. Drilling for the oil that’s refined into gasoline wreaks havoc on the environment: we all remember the Gulf of Mexico disaster when a BP oil rig exploded, but it turns out there are hundreds of “minor” oil spills every day that foul rivers and streams and endanger people’s health. Even though electric cars are powered by electricity that usually comes from coal-fired power plants, the cars can be charged in off-peak hours essentially using surplus energy, rather than new power produced just for them. And as more and more utilities tap into wind farms, the environmental impact of the electricity used will decrease substantially.

    PROS – NO GAS STATIONS

    Electric vehicles (EVs) can be charged in your garage, at home, or at the growing numbers of charging stations that are popping up at shopping malls, grocery stores, apartment buildings, and more. Pull up, plug in, and charge while you have dinner with your family or get your business or shopping done.

    PROS – QUIET

    One of the lovely benefits of driving an electric car is just how quiet it is. There’s no engine revving or sputtering. Step on the accelerator and off you go.

    CONS – BETTER FOR DAILY COMMUTES THAN LONG DISTANCE TRIPS

    Most electric vehicles can travel anywhere from 60 to 100 miles or so on a single range. People who commute to work or need to run around shopping or picking up kids from school usually find that even 60 miles in a day is a large enough range. Longer distances require the ability to recharge the battery, and that takes time.

    CONS – LONG RECHARGING TIME/RANGE ANXIETY

    It can take 8 hours for a battery to fully recharge, so it’s important to remember to plug in the vehicle every day or night. Drivers with access to a “quick charger” may be able to add 50 miles of range in around 20 or 25 minutes, but if a charging station isn’t available, the driver could be stuck waiting for the EV to charge adequately. Meanwhile, drivers who find themselves unexpectedly depleting their car’s battery may feel ‘range anxiety’ about whether or not they can actually arrive at their destination before being able to recharge.  Better planning will help make this less of an issue. In addition, drivers can download an app for their mobile device to help them locate the nearest charging station.

    CONS – EXPENSE

    The sticker price on most electric vehicles is usually higher than a comparably sized gasoline-powered vehicle. However, EVs qualify for various tax breaks that help reduce the price. Plus, the cost of electricity to charge the car will be much less than the price of gasoline. Over time, this will amount to thousands in savings that will help offset the purchase price along with the tax breaks.

    My personal opinion is that the “pros” outweigh the “cons,” especially for drivers with a predictable daily commute, access to charging stations as well as one’s home electricity plugs, and the ability to take advantage of government rebates and tax credits to help reduce the purchase price.  What do you think?

    NOTE: Many thanks to Citroen C Zero Hatchback, our sponsors for this post. Sponsored posts allow us to offer you expert content at no cost to you. Our editorial opinion remains our own. Thanks.

     

     

    Cool Roofs Save Energy & Money, Help Fight Climate Change

    Having a “cool” roof is pretty hip – but that’s not only what “cool” means in this case! Cool roofing refers to the use of thermal roof coatings that reflect sunlight away from the house, rather than absorb it, as a way to moderate building temperatures and reduce the amount of energy needed for home heating. In this era of increasing energy costs and growing concerns about the environmental impacts of burning fossil fuels, cool roofs – known as thermally coated roofs in the UK -  make sense because they save energy and money and help slow climate change. Here is more information on cool roofs, thanks to Improve a Roof, our sponsors for this post.

    Thermal-coating-heat-loss-before-and-after-222x300 What difference does a roof make?

    Any surface exposed to solar energy will get hot. Traditional roofing materials absorb 85 to 95 percent of the solar energy that reaches them, increasing the temperature of the rooms below. Thermally coated roofs reflect more of that energy back out into the atmosphere.

    Benefits

    A cool roof offers several important benefits. Because it transfers less heat to the building below, the building requires less energy for cooling, a big advantage in the summer when many homeowners max out their air conditioning – and their electricity bills. By some estimates, a thermally coated roof can reduce a homeowner’s electricity demand by 14 to 38 percent (depending also on how well the roof and home are insulated, among other factors).

    Most electricity is generated by coal-fired power plants. Burning coal creates air pollution and carbon dioxide that causes climate change. Because cool roofs reduce electricity demand, they also help keep the air clean and help minimize climate change.

    Plus, cool roofs can increase comfort for the people living in them, especially in homes that do not have air conditioning. In the picture above, the bottom photo shows how much energy (heat) is being absorbed on an untreated roof, compared to the top photo of the same roof that's been thermally coated.

    Brand new, or retrofit?

    Cool roofs can be installed on new construction, but homeowners can also retrofit their existing roofs by working with a contractor to apply coatings or membranes.

    What is a cool roof made of?

    There are generally two types of roofs –low-sloped, and steep slopped.  A low-sloped roof is mostly flat, with only enough incline to provide drainage; it’s normally used on commercial, industrial, warehouse, office, retail and multi-family buildings. Most homes have a more steeply sloped roof. The kind of roof usually determines what materials can be used to make it cool.  Contractors can use surface treatments like thermal coatings that reflect the sun’s rays, restrict the growth of algae, and are waterproof.  They can also apply membranes, pre-fabricated sheets applied in a single layer (these are better for a flat or low-sloped roof).

    What will it cost?

    If you’re interested in making your roof cool, get bids from contractors like Improve a Roof who can also tell you what thermal roof coatings are appropriate for your home. Don’t forget to factor into the cost the amount of money you will save on cooling your home in the summer. Some communities may provide tax credits for installing energy-saving technology, which will add to the savings.

     

    NOTE: Sponsors like Improve a Roof  enable us to bring you expert content at no cost to you. Our editorial opinions remain our own. Thanks.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    EcoCentric Mom Box: Soap, Serum and Chocolate

    EcoCentric Mom pulled together a fun and helpful collection of new green products to try this time around. They included:

    Ecocentric Mom Jan 2014 Soap - Not just any soap, but a full-sized bar of Wildly Natural Seaweed Detoxi Cellulite Soap featuring coffee and cinnamon to help cleanse and nourish the skin. Like most Ecocentric Mom products, it's also paraben, sulfate, gluten and dye-free.

    Lip Balm - This may be the last lip balm you ever try, because it's so soothing, nothing else will ever feel as good. LIPS by Healthy Houseful uses coconut oil, shea better and quality essential oils to moisturize and protect against chapped lips. Plus, as they say, "Nasty chemicals not included!"

    Facial and Hydrating Serum - Two sample bottles of Pure + Remedy serum included Vitamin C Facial serum, formulated with pure vegan hyaluronic acide to moisturize and plump skin cells; and Precious Drops, a super hydrating serum to firm and tone the skin.

    Continue reading "EcoCentric Mom Box: Soap, Serum and Chocolate" »

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